Designated on 1 December every year since 1988, World AIDS Day is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died.
This day is significant for me because I’ve spent 2022 serving on North Dakota’s HIV Prevention and Care Advisory Board, assisting in creating a Regional plan to help end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030.
A shared experience across our state was the stigma surrounding HIV. I ask you to check your attitudes and knee-jerk gut reactions. Is HIV something you are uncomfortable talking about? Is it shameful? Are those who contract HIV less than, or less worthy in some way because of their HIV status?
Do you mostly believe, like the majority of our state, HIV affects other people, somewhere else?
In April 1987 Princess Diana made headlines (and all kinds of waves) because she shook hands with an HIV-positive man. This one act sent a powerful message of human dignity around the world, and one we can take inspiration from today.
We know so much more about the infection now than in 1987, including how to treat it so an infected person can live a long, happy life and not transmit the virus to another person.
Cultural attitudes have not advanced with science. Especially in ND, if we continue to believe and speak about HIV that “doesn’t happen here,” we perpetuate the shame and isolation those who are at risk may experience, preventing them from seeking help.
I’m not saying we “normalize” HIV; it’s a serious infection that requires a lifelong medication regimen to achieve an undetectable viral load. It can harm unborn babies in undiagnosed mothers. This is why the efforts are to eradicate the infection.
I am saying we stop cringing and scrunching up our noses, and start taking action to be a part of the solution. The CDC recommends everyone, regardless of risk factors, be tested for HIV once in their lifetime.
Have you been tested? Ask yourself why, and if part of the reason is, the lingering fear and dishonor associated with HIV.
If you are interested in getting tested, we have a Free HIV rapid testing event happening on December 1. Check out our website, connectmedicalclinic.com/event for more details.